Monday, September 28, 2009

Simplifying the Moral Premise

This post from George Chatzigeorgiou, a moral premise fan from Greece whose material I have posted before.


While watching films and noticing how the moral premise works in them, I've found that in many good films, although there is a moral premise, it doesn't have the fully realized structure that is presented in the book, mainly plot arcs and moments of grace for main characters besides the protag. For example, the kind of films some call "character study" do not have full arcs for secondary characters ("Taxi Driver" for instance).

Thus, I've compiled a set of general rules which I think can be applied in just about any film with a good moral premise. I find these rules very freeing, cause they help me apply a moral premise without feeling confined by a highly rigid, "idealized" structure that serves well as a general guide and as a general template, but I don't think it's necessarily meant to be fully realized. So let me know what you think, will you? (In my general rules I've also included Blake Snyder's advice that the movie's theme should somehow be stated through dialogue during the set up.) I also think that these rules serve as a simplified summary of what the moral premise's all about.

Summary of the rules of a good moral premise:

1) Have a moral premise as the movie's thematic core structured as: [Virtue] leads to [success], but [vice] leads to [defeat].

2) Make the theme crystal clear by including a distinctive theme statement (preferably in the set up), by infusing the movie with "moments of grace" (beats which awaken in the minds and hearts of the audience what the movie is really about), and by exhibiting both sides of the moral premise, as well as each side's consequences.

3) Keep the moral premise consistent throughout the movie and don't betray it. This, in short, means that any character choosing to practice the virtue side should ultimately experience success, while any character choosing to practice the vice side should ultimately experience defeat.